If you have been to the Bull City Cool building to deliver or sort food, you have likely met Amber Simmons. Originally from Charlotte, NC, Ms. Simmons was drawn to Durham to work with the InterFaith Food Shuttle, motivated by her experience through family and friends who were faced with child hunger and lived in food deserts. She is responsible for a wide array of IFFS activities and programs including: coordinating logistics for collection, packaging, and delivery of food donations; identifying areas of need and growing the BackPack Buddies and Pantry Programs to address those needs; and engaging and collaborating with multiple community resources to address hunger among Durham’s children and families. Ms. Simmons believes there are many ways to address the problem of child hunger, and she remembers that as she works behind the scenes with different organizations to tackle the problem.
In the spring of 2014,Â Aja Mitchell became theÂ Parkwood Elementary PTA Secretary and headedÂ up the PTA’s Family Missions Committee. Through her work on that committee, Ms. Mitchell, pictured at right with fellow C0-ChairÂ Lesley Neely, became aware of the significant school lunch debt that was accruing on the accounts of children in need, and how widespread food insecurity was in the Parkwood community. Ms. Mitchell and her husband, motivated by theirÂ desire to eliminate hunger at Parkwood, worked with local grocery stores to purchase food and established the Parkwood school pantry. That first summer, they spent their own money to support about 12 students. That Fall, PORCH-Durham offered support for the pantry, and the PTA soon rallied to provide a budget for Ms. MitchellÂ to work with. By December of 2014, they were stocking the pantry with additional food purchased at a discount through the Food Bank of North Carolina, and serving 33 children.
Today, Aja leads a multi-faceted program aimed at reducing hunger among students at Parkwood Elementary and in the surrounding community.
Aja’s vision is that there might be a pantry in every school someday. PORCH-Durham continues to support the Parkwood community, along with many other partners. To find out more about the Parkwood PTA Family Missions Committee and how to start your own school pantry, you can email Aja.
Every third Monday, PORCH-Durham and this great set of volunteers gathers in the parking lot at Hope Valley Country Club. They greet coordinators and jot down their information, they unload cars then load up their own cars, they drive to the IFFS and unload their cars.Â And they are here to help come rain, shine, or cold! These great volunteers help our collections run smoothly.Â Thank you Bruce, Steve, Cliff, Alice, and Bob.